Andrew Jamieson is a heraldic artist and manuscript illuminator. Born in London, he later studied the specialist subjects of heraldic painting, calligraphy and manuscript illumination at Salisbury School of Art. Most recently, in 2023 he received the honour of designing and painting the invitation for the Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla, which he created using Winsor & Newton watercolour and gouache.
From 1983 to 1995 Jamieson worked as a freelance heraldic artist for the College of Arms. In 1996 he was recognised as a Master Heraldic Artist by the Canadian Heraldic Authority and in 1997 he wrote and illustrated the book Coats of Arms. In 2011 he was invited to become a scribe and illuminator for His Majesty’s Crown office producing documents of State.
Today, Jamieson is based near St Andrews in Scotland, and he takes commissions from all over the globe.
You describe yourself as a heraldic artist and manuscript illuminator. Can you describe what this entails?
Being a heraldic artist means that I design and paint new coats of arms for clients, and I paint new versions of existing coats of arms. As a manuscript illuminator I design pages and books that look like traditional illuminated manuscripts from the medieval period. These include things like poems, certificates and prayers. Although my work might look like copies of pages from medieval books, the pieces are original designs that are painted in a medieval style. I also do more contemporary work, still using the same materials.
How did you first become interested in art, and what inspired you to pursue it as a career?
I was drawing from an early age – all I ever wanted for Christmas were sketchbooks and pencils! In those day I copied pictures out of books, mostly of knights and ships. I went to Saturday morning pictures with my friends and saw films like The Black Shield of Falworth, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and El Cid. The colour of the heraldry, the armour, the plumes and the spectacle of chivalry just had an impact on me. When I was around eight years old my parents took me to the British Museum, and that was when I saw my first illuminated manuscripts. I remember noticing the gold and flowers and birds and fantastical creatures, and it had a profound effect on me that never went away.
David Wilson Bookplate
Tell us about a typical day in your studio. Are there any rituals you follow?
The first thing I do is make a pot of coffee (a habit I acquired living in the USA – I was once a tea drinker!). I then take my dog for a two- or three-mile walk through fields, woodland and by the sea – I’m lucky to get to walk through this environment every day. This is when I do my creative thinking and give my ideas nourishment. I then have my second coffee and breakfast, and start work at 9am.
I work for about eight hours a day, or more if a commission demands it. I then walk my dog again and I go through the art that I have painted that day. When I was younger, I would work much longer hours, as I just couldn’t put the brush down. These days my eyes can’t take it, especially as my work is quite intricate. When I finish, I tend to watch a film to unwind.
What about the creative process around starting a new project?
I usually get a brief and then spend a few days considering it and sketching in a notepad. I usually have a clear image of how it will look in my head almost immediately, and the sketching allows me to see if it works or not. I try not to be too mechanical or precise. What I love in medieval paintings is the sense of life and fun – there are some artists in my field far cleverer than me who produce beautiful, technically perfect pieces, but their work is so fixated on the finish I feel the life of the piece is lost somewhat.
I think my approach is why some of my work has been mistaken for actual medieval paintings. I have a place I go to in my mind. I call it my ‘strange landscape’, and it is like an actor getting into their character. It is a meditational process where I try to imagine I am in the 14th century, unafflicted by the modern industrial and digital ages.
How did you come to be commissioned to design the Coronation invitation, and what was your initial reaction to the project?
I was elected a Brother of the Art Workers’ Guild in 2002. It’s a wonderful and slightly eccentric institution. His Majesty is an Honorary Brother, and he wanted a Guild artist to design the invitation. Several artists put their names forward, and those who agreed submitted a rough concept.
When I heard that my work had been chosen my immediate reaction was something I can’t say out loud! I then sat down with my wife for a coffee and let it sink in. I realised immediately that my work would probably be seen by millions of people. But as important as a commission like this is, you have to approach it like any other work. If you don’t, it will start to play on your mind and that will affect the end results.
What was the inspiration behind the design elements such as the florals, animals and the Green Man?
I have always admired His Majesty’s love of the natural world and the work he has done to create beautiful natural spaces for people and wildlife – especially here in the UK. I love flower meadows. Is there anything nicer to sit in and listen to the bees and the birds? The Green Man was a deliberate choice as it represents new beginnings and growth in the natural world. It seemed appropriate for a new monarch, and it never occurred to me that it would be quite so controversial.
Can you describe the specific techniques and materials you used to create the Coronation invitation?
I used Winsor & Newton watercolours and gouache; I have done so throughout my 40-year career. I usually tend to use gouache, but this piece needed a more delicate and natural feel, and so I chose to use watercolour and then gouache on the heraldry. As it was designed for printing, I didn’t use many traditional techniques, where normally 23.5 carat gold is used in abundance. I used sable brushes to paint with – a 000 being the biggest and a 00000 being the smallest.
Can you tell us about any other significant commissions or projects you’ve worked on?
I have produced royal documents of state, including one for HRH Prince William when he was made Duke of Cambridge. I was asked by the Templeton Prize to design their presentation certificate, and made two vellum examples for the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu created entirely by hand. I also helped design a stained-glass window for the Stuart Room in Windsor Castle during the renovation.
How important is colour in your work and how do you choose the palettes you use?
In heraldry it is simple. There are only five colours used: red, blue, green, purple and black. White is used instead of silver and gold, and I will never mix the same blue twice. When it comes to my other work, I create a sympathetic palette; sometimes it will be bright other times muted, depending on my vision. I always mix colours and never use them straight from the tube.
What or who do you see as your biggest influences and inspirations?
What a good question. I love art – all art. I love Gerhard Richter’s and Howard Hodgkin’s abstracts. I like John William Waterhouse and William Morris, and the work of English impressionists like Sir George Clausen. I admire the early Danish ‘primitive’ school artists, such as Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling and Rogier van der Weyden, and probably just about every medieval manuscript I see!
All images are courtesy of the artist. Click here to see more of Andrew’s work.
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